Early voting for the Republican primary runoff election for lieutenant governor started this week. It’s the final week of a race marked by a fight for the title of “most conservative” and increasingly personal attacks.
Coming off the final debate with his opponent in the race for lieutenant governor, David Dewhurst, the night before, state Sen. Dan Patrick cast his vote at the Cypress Top Historic Park early voting location.
Patrick brought his wife, daughter and three-month old grandson along. He said he feels privileged to run for statewide office.
“I haven’t been home much to see my family, but it’s been worth the journey,” he said. “And it hasn’t been easy, as some of you, at times, but it’s worth it. And so, we feel really good about this election.”
It’s no surprise Patrick feels good.
Virtually all political analysts say the race is his to lose. He put incumbent Dewhurst on the defensive when he won 41 percent of votes versus 28 for Dewhurst in the first round of the primary, and Dewhurst has played catch-up ever since.
The increasingly personal attacks culminated with the leaking of some of Patrick’s mental health records that showed he was treated for depression in the 1980s. The documents were leaked by Jerry Patterson, who finished fourth in the Republican race for lieutenant governor and now endorses Dewhurst.
Dewhurst has denied any involvement in Patterson’s actions. But Patrick thinks otherwise.
“This has backfired tremendously against my opponent’s campaign,” Patrick said. “Make no mistake, it wasn’t Jerry. It was the Dewhurst campaign behind it. It’s backfired.”
But Richard Murray, political scientist at the University of Houston, said the talk about Patrick’s mental health history didn’t change the race all that much.
“Patrick went in with a big advantage and still has that advantage after this latest series of disclosures,” Murray said. “It’s probably ginned up a little more interest in the race, but it’s still Patrick’s race to lose, as it was before this flap.”
Murray said this week’s debate showed that the two candidates don’t differ all that much from each other in that both are trying to position themselves in the “most conservative” corner.
He said it’s what Republican candidates for statewide office in Texas have had to do, since the winner of the Republican primary usually wins the general election.
“But there is some risk if running too far to the right you might lose some moderate, even Republicans, but also moderate independents and, you know, the state is getting more racially and ethnically diverse and those voters are not terrifically conservative.”
Patrick, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to be concerned by that.
“Well, we welcome all Republicans, independents and anyone else who wants to vote for us,” he said. “But I am a conservative and our state is conservative. And it bears it out in every person that we’ve elected in election after election.”
Early voting ends on Friday and Election Day is next Tuesday. The winner of the runoff faces Democrat Leticia Van de Putte in the race for Texas lieutenant governor.